Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Culture (yes...that general)

I spoke for ten minutes in Dr. John H. White's Bible 300 program today. The topic was 'culture'. Broad, yes, but if you are reading Keith (I'll mention him in almost every post, I'm sure) or Gideon Strauss 'culture' becomes a very important term. Being trained in the linguistic field, I have a particular penchant to argue semantics, which is (to me) very important to worldview (see the book Metaphors We Live By for an idea). Here's the thoughts that I had (which were much more 'full' and funny in person, I am a big, goofy-looking Nebraskan):

What is culture? Is it the way you use your forks? Is it a snobby attitude towards the arts? Most words having a tie to 'culture' have to do with an aspect of farming or animal husbandry:

agriculture, horticulture, viniculture, aquaculture, arboriculture, aviculture, monoculture, permaculture, pisciculture, sericulture, vermiculture, and cultivar

All of these words have to do with 'cultivation' -- the act and art of doing culture. In Greek, the verb 'to do' is:


from which we get the word 'poem'. Culture doesn't come out of a vacuum, it is something particularly human, something we 'do', something we 'poiema', we artfully and imaginatively engage in all of life. But think back to the words that end with '-culture': how can humans do those? Have you ever met an unmarried farmer? Only in community, only as a 'cultus', a 'worshipping community' is culture possible. Culture, then, at is bedrock level, is what humans do in response to God.

Shalom olam.

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